Manchester study reveals transparent measure in NHS could save lives and money

By Robin Scott

A provocative study written by a Manchester-based surgeon suggests that investing in more transparent reporting could save the NHS millions.

The report, written by Ben Bridgewater, Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at University Hospital of South Manchester was commissioned by the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery.

It looks in detail at the efforts of cardiac surgeons over the past decade to review their practices thoroughly and share the resulting data with the public.   

Mr Bridgewater said: “Cardiac surgeons were forced to act after the Bristol inquiry and have subsequently proven that public accountability drives up standards of patient care while reducing costs as areas of substandard practice are resolved. 

“Giving access to appropriate information will reassure the public and allow patients to make informed decisions about their care.”

He goes on to suggest that whilst cardiac surgeons have come on in leaps and bounds in reporting in this sort of transparent way, the rest of the NHS is lagging behind.

In reflecting on the importance of his findings he talks about the simple fact that measuring clinical outcomes is good value for money.

Data collection costs cardiac surgery £1.5 per year, just 0.6% of the total spend on the specialty yet the information collected has saved nearly £5m.

If the Department of Health were prepared to invest more in data collection and other areas of the health service were to implement comparable procedures the potential for further savings is huge.

The report goes on to point out the value to patients of data of this type being made publicly available.

Making surgical data on hospitals and even individual surgeons available to the public has been shown to drive up standards and even improve mortality rates.

If other specialties were to take up collecting and reporting their own data similar results are inevitable.

The report also discusses the lessons that medicine can learn from the ‘information revolution’ and suggests that more effective use must be made of the internet to both gather and share information with the public.

Mr Bridgewater and his colleagues then mention the importance of a clearly defined programme of continued professional development for surgeons.

This is a vital tool in providing a high quality service to patients and in maintaining the publics trust.

Lastly the report talks about applying the same process of thorough review and publicly available data to other medical specialties.

The difficulty of that application will vary with some specialties finding ‘results’ harder to define but the benefits and the need, the report suggests, is obvious.

Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley said: “Cardiothoracic surgeons have led the way in demonstrating that a transparent NHS is a better and safer NHS.

He added: “We would like to see many more areas using data to improve outcomes.

That’s why over the next year, we’ll make another £1.2million available for more clinical audits, to provide date to help us drive up clinical standards.”

NHS Medical Director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said: “If you do not know what you are doing and how well you are doing it, you have no right to be doing it at all.”


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